by, Sep 27th 2011 at 03:52 PM (374 Views)
'An Interlude to Think'
What James is trying to teach his readers is that they must get their minds off themselves and focus on the main point, it is that their life is in God's hands and they must seek His guidance and forgiveness for their sins. It sounds trite, but over the last two and a half chapters, chapters 2 to 4, James has pointed out some serious problems that are disturbing to any honest reader. So many in the fellowship were in open revolt and following their own desires.
You would expect that of those who were not 'in Christ', but these were one who professed the Names in word, but their actions were anything but. It is a humbling thing to give over your will to God after pushing it to the limits as these people were. Maligning the poor, shredding people with scathing words, running after desires that were out of control and doing what even any good Pagan would have considered wrong, or at the least, just bad conduct. But that is what James faced. There was a stubbornness there that is illustrated by Jonah. You see, he is just more than a fish tale, more than just a man riding around in the belly of fish, more than just a sailor on the wrong end of the baited hook; he was a prophet of God in open revolt.
How did this happen? Well, God called him to preach to the Ninevites and he was not only appalled, but was downright incensed that God wanted him to do such a thing. The book explains itself as we read through it, and see that the prophecy itself was secondary to what was really going on. God wanted to show His mercy to a group of people, and Jonah was so mad he could not hold his anger in check.The big point for us is this: Jonah humbled himself before God, but he still could not hold his anger in check after he sought God's mercy for himself; and that was the big point of God's teaching both to and through this prophet.
But 'the man of God' was having none of this. He ran to avoid God's will; what he knew God wanted to accomplish. Here, we stop to wonder the emotional state that drove Jonah to such links. Surely he knew could not run far enough from God? Surely he knew that God could call up others to do what he, Jonah, refused to do? What was Jonah thinking? At this point, we seem to have hit a stone wall.
The one thing we will learn from the rest of the book is that Jonah responded in with anger, he was very angry with God. This kind of anger comer from....pride?...fear?...hate? I think it was fear mixed with pride and hate. Fear of what would happen to his countrymen, anger against God who would bring this on His people, maybe hate for the Ninevites and, curiously, his own rebellious countrymen who were bringing this on themselves. Anger can be complex, but when full grown it can be so destructive.
So, he ran as far as he could and got others entangled in his anger and pride. God called up an 'angry' North wind that started a large storm, large enough to 'rock Jonah' and create fear in the sailors. I have always wondered why Jonah was sleeping so peacefully. Did he feel that he had gotten so far away from what God wanted him to do that he could just take it easy? But Jonah was right back in an angry stew. The crew was scared, jettisoning their cargo to keep the ship from capsizing, and praying to their gods. Then, their was Jonah snoring away in the lower part of the ship. Finally , he was at peace while all around him were falling apart. He was in the position Paul warns about, ' 12So, people who think they are standing firmly should be careful that they don’t fall. ' (1 Cor. 10:12) [ It might do you well to read the context of that chapter and think about it.]
I have always wondered how Jonah could sleep so peacefully while the storm was building outside. He sure felt its' results, it would have rolled the ship around and the wind would have whistled through our the ship; but still, Noah slept while the crew was dissolving into panic. So, the captain goes nad rouses Jonah to face the storm he had caused. When confronted, Jonah confessed, but I bet he knew what was up from the time he stepped out onto the deck and saw the mounting storm.
He was confronted with the chaos in much the same way the James is confronting the ones of his time who had 'created' their own chaos among the fellowship. So, Jonah 'fessed up and told them what to do, but they resisted at first. They had more care for the passenger than he had in getting them into this mess. Jonah, by his disobedience, sucked the crew into a bad storm. In James letter, he describes those who have created a horrible situation and how they must act to make things right.
Finally, they do what Jonah says and throw him in the sea, and all goes calm and right for them in matters of the sea. James is struggling to show how a fellowship has become a stormy sea of spiritual chaos can be made right. I wonder how hard it was for Jonah to tell them 'throw me into the sea and you will be safe.'? He knew the answer was going to be hard on him, just as the answer James, in chapter four of his letter, is struggling to show what is needed in his day. So, Jonah meets the consequences of his actions in the belly of a fish that God has made just for this situation. Jonah did not realize, when he fell asleep in that boat that he would have to spend a few days in the belly of fish.
I doubt if the ones James was writing to ever considered the ramifications of their actions; Jonah seemed to have forgotten, or maybe he was just snoring too loud to hear himself think. But, like Jonah found out, James is warning the readers of his letter that there will come a day of reckoning, but we will see that in James chapter five. For now, we must picture Jonah and feel his emotions as he was transported around in that fish. He endured it for three days and three nights. The prayer, as recored in chapter two, contains several passages which describe the seaweed clutching at him, the waves washing over him, and the sensations of being pulled deeper and deeper into a watery grave.
But Jonah repented (2:6-9). He was broken and filled with a Godly sorrow.Paul talks about this kind of sorrow in his second letter to the Corinthian church. He had to come down hard on them for some things, just as God did Jonah, and they responded with repentance and a renewed zeal. Paul puts it this way: ' 8 For even if that letter of mine made you sad, I am not sorry I wrote it. I could have been sorry when I saw that it made you sad for a while.9 But now I am happy—not because I made you sad, but because your sadness made you change your ways. That sadness was used by God, and so we caused you no harm.10 For the sadness that is used by God brings a change of heart that leads to salvation—and there is no regret in that! But sadness that is merely human causes death.11 See what God did with this sadness of yours: how earnest it has made you, how eager to prove your innocence! Such indignation, such alarm, such feelings, such devotion, such readiness to punish wrongdoing! You have shown yourselves to be without fault in the whole matter.'.
The Corinthians repented, Jonah repented, and that is what James wants his readers to do, if they need it. We all, at certain times in our lives, find ourselves doing what is wrong, and in rebellion to what God commands, but John in his first letter (1:9) assures of God's forgiveness if we truly seek it and repent. Humility before God is our approach to Him in this, and His love is His response to us. I will leave you with a story the Master once told:
11 Jesus went on to say,
There was once a man who had two sons.12 The younger one said to him,
Father, give me my share of the property now. So the man divided his property between his two sons.13 After a few days the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living.14 He spent everything he had. Then a severe famine spread over that country, and he was left without a thing.15 So he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him out to his farm to take care of the pigs.16 He wished he could fill himself with the bean pods the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything to eat.17 At last he came to his senses and said,
All my father's hired workers have more than they can eat, and here I am about to starve!18 I will get up and go to my father and say, Father, I have sinned against God and against you.19 I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers.
20 So he got up and started back to his father.
He was still a long way from home when his father saw him; his heart was filled with pity, and he ran, threw his arms around his son, and kissed him.21
Father, the son said,
I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.22 But the father called to his servants.
Hurry! he said. Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet.23 Then go and get the prize calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast!24 For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.
And so the feasting began.
25 In the meantime the older son was out in the field. On his way back, when he came close to the house, he heard the music and dancing.26 So he called one of the servants and asked him,
What's going on?27
Your brother has come back home, the servant answered,
and your father has killed the prize calf, because he got him back safe and sound.28 The older brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in.29 But he spoke back to his father,
Look, all these years I have worked for you like a slave, and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends!30 But this son of yours wasted all your property on prostitutes, and when he comes back home, you kill the prize calf for him!
My son, the father answered,
you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours.32 But we had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.